Politics of Democratization in Europe, Book Review, 29 March 2009

29 March 2009
Book review

POLITICS OF DEMOCRATIZATION IN EUROPE

The book is a compilation of 23 articles by various authors examining different aspects of the democratisation under the following 4 chapters: Concepts, Practices, Changes and Contexts.

Concepts

The first article in this Chapter is “Representative Democracy: Rosanvallon on the French Experience” by Frank R. Ankersmit. The author claims that the representative democracy is as true a democracy as the laws governing the representative democracy are appropriate.

In the second article, “Direct Democracy, Ancient and Modern”, Mogens H. Hansen points out that the only direct democracy existed in Ancient Greece and that during several centuries after the Hellenic era, scholars introduced the concept of representative democracy and institutions but no serious debate took place regarding the democratic character of these institutions.

In her article under the title of “Neither Ancient nor Modern: Rousseau’s Theory of Democracy“, Gabriella Silvestrini discusses Rousseau’s perception of democracy and concludes that it had very little relevance to majority rule.

In “Representative Government or Republic? Sieyes on Good Government”, Christine Faure points out that Sieyes suggested to maintain an elected king that resembles the modern institution of the President of the Republic.

In “Democratic Politics and the Dynamics of Passions”, Chantal Mouffe argues that democracy is not necessarily a clash of two antagonistic sets of interests. It may as well be an effort to find the most reasonable solution between pros and cons in a debate.

In “Disobedient State and Faithful Citizen? Relocating Politics in the Age of Globalization”, Olivia Guaraldo argues that democratic systems try to keep violence away from the democratic debates, but they exercise their monopoly of violence by using the State structures.

In “The Gendered ’Subjects’ of Political Representation”, Tuija Pulkkinen examines the concept of ‘subject’ in the context of contemporary feminist political theory.                    

Practices

In “Political Rhetoric and the Role of Ridicule”, Quentin Skinner points out that the political discourse followed closely the rules of rhetoric of the textbooks of the Roman and Greek authors.

In “Political Times and Rhetoric of Democratization”, Kari Palonen portrays the politicians in the democratic regimes as individuals exposed to using time as a political tool. He also believes that the process of democratization has accentuated the timeliness of the political activity.

In “Democratization and the Instrumentalization of the Past”, Irene Herrmann compares Switzerland and Russia from the democratisation standpoint and concludes that in both of these countries historians have taken part in politics by referring to history.

In “The Rhetoric of Intellectual Manifestos from the First World War to the War against terrorism”, Marcus Llanque underlines that intellectual manifestos are aimed at portraying the intellectuals as representing a public position while they are not elected representatives.

In “City Squats and Women’s Struggle: Feminist Political Action as Public Performance”, Anna Schober analyses from multiple perspectives the political significance of public actions that seem like a mere aesthetic manifestations.

In “Spectres of Totality”, Simona Forti studies the dangers of the totalitarian practices that haunt democracy.

Changes

In “Women’s Partial Citizenship Cleavages and Conflicts Concerning Women’s Citizenship in Theory and Practice”, Claudia Wiesner claims that gender equality does not exist and that women’s citizenship is only a partial citizenship in the contemporary Europe.

In “Gendering Political Representation? The Debate on Gender Parity in France”, Laure Bereni points out that the question of gender parity was raised in France in 1990s as a result of academic feminism and debates within the international organisations.                   

In “Political Professionalism and Representative Democracy: Common History, Irresolvable Linkage and Inherent Tensions”, Jens Borchert believes that the professionalization of the political offices is almost inevitable but it also violates the democratic principles.

In “Democratization and Professionalisation: The Disappearance of the Polling Officer in Germany and the Introduction of Computer Democracy” Hubertus Buchstein examines the diminishing importance of the present polling systems as the electronic voting penetrates the voting field.

In “The History of Parliamentary Democracy in Denmark in Comparative Perspective” by Uffe Jacopsen claims that a scholarly study of the transition from the authoritarian rule to that of democracy indicates that the process was very similar in the Eastern Europe to that of the Western Europe.

Contexts

In “A long and Hard Process of Democratization: Political Representation, Election and Democracy in Contemporary Spain”, Gonzalo Capellan de Miguel concludes that the 1997 general elections carries the double symbolism of inaugurating a new democratic period and of retrieving a stolen democratic legacy.

In “Do Political Parties Matter? Direct Democracy and Electoral Struggle in Switzerland in the Nineteenth Century”, Pierre-Antoine Schorderet points out that despite the strong existence direct democracy at the cantonal level in Switzerland, it has also functioned through representative institutions.

In “The Breakthrough of Universal Suffrage in Finland, 1905-1906”, Jussi Kurunmaki studies early stages of democracy in Finland and explains how Finland became the first country to introduce universal suffrage in 1906.

In “Nationalism, Constitutionalism and Democratization: The Basque Question in Perspective”, Jose Maria Rosales examines the intriguing relations between the Basque nationalism and democracy through the exceptional view of terrorist violence in the name of the nationalist cause.

In “The Dis-/Appearance of the Demos”, Meike-Schmidt-Gleim examines the banlieue revolt of 2005 in France and argues that this means annihilating the demos and turning sovereignty into a governmental principle.

The book ends with a “Postscript: The Past, Present and Future of Democratization” in which Kari Palonen concludes with a positive note on the future of democracy.

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